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A Little More In The Way Of Definitions

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Posted by Harvey on March 24, 2002 00:28:10 UTC

Hi Dick,

A little research is worth tons of blabber. I found, I think, an applicable paper on the subject that we are discussing with a number of offered philosophical definitions which I think we should try to standardize on using (called situation theory which makes use of information theory). The paper is by Israel, D., and J. Perry. (1990), "What is information?" In P. Hanson, Ed., Information, Language, and Cognition. Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press, pp. 1-19. I found the paper on-line:

http://www-csli.stanford.edu/~john/israel/whatisinfo/whatisinfo.html

Without necessarily going in-depth about their situation theory, I thought maybe we could use their most primary sense data terminology:

Infon: Basic unit of information. These are theoretical entities that are parametric state of affairs. Infons characterize situations and therefore their truth or falsity cannot be asserted. (see http://www-csli.stanford.edu/~john/israel/whatisinfo/footnode.html#109 )

A couple of other classifications might be helpful:

Situation: Makes a state of affairs factual to humans by having sufficient supporting evidence.

Difference between infons and a state of affairs: An infon is a parametric state of affairs and a state of affairs is a nonparametric infon. That is, an infon can be applied in a case by case manner depending how the infon is characterized by the situation, whereas a state of affairs cannot be characterized by a situation. A state of affairs is simply the one and only case of what is really the case.

Anchor: An infon is mentally tied to a situation such that the situation is satisfied by the tied-in infon. Infons that are anchored to situations are called evidence.


If the above definitions make sense to you, then let me respond to your post as follows:

***D: Consider my first example of an ["infon"]: (00110101001100010101010000001111110101010100010101010) How do you know that any meaning is attached to that? If it has no meaning, does that mean that it is not an [infon]? If it is not [an "infon"], what is it?

D (second reply):It is [an infon]! [Infons] are the fundamental nature of whatever exists. There is nothing which is not [an infon] and everything we know is deduced from [an infon]. The problem which interests me is the problem of giving meaning to [an infon]: i.e., in your words, turning [infon] into information! Does that make more sense to you? That is, meaning is something we give to things! Certainly meaning is not fundamental to the universe!***

I would agree that if an infon theory is correct, then we must use this to extract meaning to the world.

***It has dawned upon me that perhaps I do have a theory here. My theory is that the universe is comprised entirely of [infons]. I suggest this is a theory as you apparently do not believe in the existence of [infons]. Certainly you have fought tooth and nail every time I have ever tried to bring the center of attention to bare unadorned [infons]. (You see, it never even occurred to me that someone would doubt the existence of [an infon].)***

I'm not sure if an infon is the appropriate means to classify our raw experience as it comes to us humans. The problem I see is that we may see the world holistically where the world is not conceived of via primitive constituents equivalent to an infon. This strikes me atomist. For example, perhaps the most basic constituent to our direct experience to the world is via the whole (e.g., sentences versus words, pictures versus pixels, etc). Philosophers are very much divided on this issue.

***So, my theory is that the universe is comprised of [infons] and it is indeed a hypothesis which is subject to verification by experiment. And, according to Yanniru, my theory has been verified!***

I think it is a mistake to consider your theory verified. Let me list some reasons why that is so:

1) Your definitions are not the same as used within the physical theories - at least not explicitly.

2) Your theory would be a metatheory where the physical theories are subtheories within your metatheory. However, you do not make any physical predictions in your metatheory that can be verified to confirm the metatheory. For all we know, your metatheory could be 'curve fitting' to known experimental results.

3) You are constructing mathematical equations that obtain verified equations, but the meaning of your variables is your own interpretation. You haven't justified why those terms are correct versus the million other definitions that one could plug into those variables.

4) It is not known what makes physical theories true, you may have accidentally stumbled upon a limitation of the physical world that requires nature to be mathematical. If you construct the equations close to how this principle, you might inadvertently arrive at nature's same results.

5) You haven't reached other very important and even more fundamental theories of physics (e.g., QED, QCD, etc) which indicates that your approach isn't that fundamental since fundamental approaches tend to produce the most fundamental results.

***Thus it is that our differences appear to reduce to your position that [infons] cannot possibly really exist. Yet you accept the existence of photons, electrons, positrons and many other entities which you have never seen with your own eyes. How is it that my theory is so impossible?***

I'm not saying infons are impossible. What I'm saying is that knowing an ontological theory as correct appears to me as impossible.

Warm regards, Harv

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